Spending Her First Years in Prison
What are some particular challenges faced by women in prison who are mothers?
About 85% of women in prison are mothers. Almost 2 million children under the age of eighteen have a parent in prison, and most of these kids are under age ten. That’s a population larger than the city of San Francisco, larger than the state of Delaware. According to the Bureau of Justice, anywhere from 4%-7% of women sentenced are pregnant. This translates into close to 10,000 babies born to mothers in prisons. There are currently seven women’s state prison nurseries. My recent article for the Child Welfare League of America “Babies Behind Bars” highlights these nurseries and the issues involved with babies in prison.
Many states still shackle pregnant women, and a chain around the belly can harm a fetus. A number of groups lobby to improve the services for pregnant women in prisons. I look forward to seeing these changes, look forward to the day when adequate resources for mental health and addiction in our communities. This alone can help reduce our rising rate of incarceration.